Figaro

Hussain
4 min readDec 16, 2020

When I walked down the street, there was a small Figaro, positioned approximately halfway to the place I wanted to get to five minutes down the road. I used to pass it every time, every day.

In 1991, there were only 20,073 Figaros made by Nissan. The New York Times’ Phil Patton called the car the “height of postmodernism”. But I didn’t know any of that. I saw the Figaro on the first day I had to walk down the street, quickly because I was late, but when I saw it, parked halfway down the road, I stopped, looked at it, and slowed down for the rest of the walk.

The car was Lapis Grey, and parked without fail in the same spot, next to the same door, every time, never saw it driven, never with someone starting its engine in the morning, or parking it in the early evening after work, always there, sitting, the same as the day before. Sometimes the roof would be pulled down, sometimes pulled over. When I would come to the corner of the main road, as I would turn into the street that the car was parked on, my gaze would fall upon it, but not consciously. I wouldn’t be thinking about looking at it before turning the corner, but when I did, my pace would suddenly become leisurely, shoulders loosened. I would take my time in those two, three minutes that it took to get from the start of the street to where the car stood, and then the same when I would be walking the opposite way in the evening. But when the car was out of line of sight, my head wouldn’t turn back, I wouldn’t stop for a few minutes when I came next to it, instead pace normalized, methodical, no longer transfixed, five-minute journey on the street continued. Those first few days that I walked down the street, I didn’t know what the car was called until, a week and a half after I had been passing it, I took a look at its bumper. But I knew it looked different. It didn’t look like normal cars, it looked expensive but in a weird vintage sort of way. Something you know might cost a lot because of how old it seemed.

The steering wheel was white, with a stainless-steel center. White interior too, and pristine dashboard. I didn’t know why in that pocket of time between turning the corner and coming up next to the car, I felt slightly carefree. There wasn’t anything special about it, it was just a car, an odd-looking one, but just like any other car that you start, push into gear, and drive.

Those walks down the street happened in the summer, at a time when I wasn’t very happy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating, I had failed an exam, and come very close to failing the year, and I didn’t know what I was doing walking down the street everyday, thinking about all of these things. But I would look forward to seeing the Figaro, an inanimate, uninteresting object outside the different insides I went to and from all day, from inside the flat to inside the train to inside the office to inside the grocery store on the way back. The insides mattered, they were where I slept, lived, worked, travelled in, the outside was interim, passing, unimportant, one filled with Figaros and other such uninteresting things seemingly ordinary at first, grabbing your attention for maybe only a few minutes on the way to somewhere inside.

There was something about the Figaro because, not despite, of its irrelevance, its uninteresting inanimateness. It just sat there every day, doing nothing, but I still liked looking at it. I saw the white-trimmed wheels and pictured them rolling around on the N-340 from Adra to Malaga. I saw the convertible cover, and instead of the dull Victorian townhouses in front of the windshield, thought about rapidly rushing peak after peak of the Dolomites, their view unencumbered by a plastic roof, as the car went from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

I didn’t go to any of those places, before or since then. But seeing the Figaro made me think about them. As the days passed, and as I passed the Figaro each day, thinking about what I would do if I had one, made me seek the Dolomites and the Mediterranean on that small street, on the way back from work, the walk from the grocer to the flat. I cherished the outside, and found myself seeking it when inside. The hour’s break I would have at work would be spent with my lunch at the park a ten minute walk away, eating my sandwich while looking at trees, people going about their day, stressed men in suits, ducks in the water, different ‘Figaros’.

Every day after work, instead of going back to my flat I would spend an hour in the park, lying down on the grass staring at the sky, not thinking about what I could do if I had a Figaro, but being in a ‘Figaro’ in that moment. On the weekends that summer, I would spend less time in my flat and more time outside. I would buy a book and spend the day reading it on a bench, go out with friends, on long walks with them through canals and markets. That was my favorite summer, and all I remember is the outside, I barely know what happened in the office on this day or what I had for dinner in the flat on that day, but I loved the day I spent in a park, or the day I stayed out with a friend. After a few weeks, the insides became interim, passing, unimportant, and the outside filled with Figaros here and there.

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